Rebecca and I were discussing the issue of offense the other night. She was helping me to better understand the subject. For me, the word offense or offended is too broad. The word encompasses more than a single emotion. Rebecca said that I should replace the word offended with the word hurt. That helped a little, but the word hurt is too broad as well. Think of it like this, a man comes into the emergency room screaming, “I am hurting, I am hurting.” The doctors put him on a gurney and rush him to the operating room and proceed to remove his kidney. The patent finally wakes and is flabbergasted! “What have you done,” he cries, “I had a splinter in my big toe!”
Finding the source of the hurt, or the offense, is the only way to truly deal with the issue. So what does the word offend mean? There are at least 19 words or variations of words in the Greek and Hebrew that are translated “offend,” "offensive,” or “offended” in the NASB translation. In the Old Testament the word can be applied to three different situations. The first is in regard to religious law. In Jer. 23:13 and Dan. 3:29 the word piggul means offensive smell, putrid and is related to offerings that have violated God’s proscribed practice. They were sacrifices that were offensive to God. Secondly, an offense was seen from a legal perspective. Ashem meant one was guilty, and applied to both the offender and the offended in respect to the law. And the third area of offense was between fellow Israelites. It was personal, as in Proverbs 18:19. The brother of the offender has done something egregious, rebellious against the friendship. This can be as extreme as Exodus 2:13 where one Israelite kills another Israelite, or as simples as having offense (loathsome) breath, Job 19:17.
In the New Testament “offended” is bait, a stumbling block, sin, transgression, one who stands beside, or an act of wickedness. Jesus didn’t want people to take offense in regard to him (Matt. 11:6; Luke 7:23), yet they did (Matt 13:57; Mark 6:3). In fact Paul in Romans says that Jesus was a fulfillment of prophesy, and that he would become a cause of offense to the Jews (Romans 9:32; 1 Peter 2:8). People were offended on several occasions, not just with his person, but also with his message and action (Luke 15:12; Matt 17:27). Understanding the nuance of an offense helps both the offender and the offended come to reconciliation. When a person approaches an an individual and says, “I am offended,” What does he mean? What is the feeling behind the offense? Was the offender offensive, speaking truth, or unconsciously being careless? Does a kidney need taken out or a splinter.
Offense can be categorized in the following:
1. A transgression of the moral or divine Law.
2. To cause difficulties, discomfort, or injury.
3. To cause dislike, anger, or vexation.
4. To violate or transgress – to cause pain or hurt.
5. A stumbling block – to cause someone to sin or fall.
6. To cause a feeling of resentment, usually by violation of what is proper or fitting.
In most instances in the scripture offense has to do with a direct desire to do harm to another person.
John Bevere, in his book “The Bait of Satan,” makes this observation, “No matter what the scenario is, we can divide all offended people into two major categories: (1) those who have been treated unjustly or (2) those who believe
they have been treated unjustly. People in the second category believe with all their hearts that they have been wronged. Often their conclusions are drawn from inaccurate information. Or their information is accurate, but their conclusion is distorted. Either way, they hurt, and their understanding is darkened. They judge by assumption, appearance, and hearsay.”
Once we understand that being offended is broad and complex, we can move on to another important question. Are the feelings of offense legitimate? I am just saying….